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Walter T Amos

Walter T Amos was a famous high profile native artist. Famous for his masks that are found in different museums around the world. He was born on March 12, 1920 and passed away on Friday, January 25, 2002.


     My father, the late Walter t. Amos a Southwest Cu’pig Eskimo was known for his lifelong indigenous craftsmanship, representing the ancient mask designs, harpoons, and producing actual Bering Sea kayaks made from driftwood, and walrus skin cover for the kayaks. I was only a child when I experienced my father’s
professionalism in higher profile art designs of handcrafted mask making. He would take me along in a small boat to find the driftwood called, (white spruce wood), it was always a fun time for me watching and helping my father seeking the wood for his masks.
    He first picked out the finer woods, cutting them in size for the center pieces, and the wood rings, this was on the Island of Nunivak in the Bering Sea. During the time he would begin producing the masks, he would use a handmade chisel to shape the masks and the wood rings, then sanding the outer pieces of the mask designs in which represented the masks they use to use for festivals since he was a younger man and his father before him. The paint he used for his masks were a white clay 4 to 5 feet beneath the tundra where he would dig for it using a wood shovel, he had made. The other color paint was a red ochre rock mixed in seal blood, as an ancient tradition of our ancestors, the black colors were used also in mixing with the seal blood for the mask designs. The seal blood was used signifying the ancestral heritage of connecting to the Sealife of the mammal they hunted and what the species provided for them.
    The reindeer and walrus sinew were used as string in putting the mask parts together, many different designs were made signifying ancestral heritage of the Southwest Cup’ig Eskimoes of Nunivak Island. The traditional festivals were to invite other villages, as two runners would bring a gift for the chief of the villages,
inviting them to a reindeer messenger festival, where dances, and other festive trading, also honoring or youths, dedicating them into adulthood were common during these festivals.

     Nunivak Island mask making designs became very popular during the times when trading posts would trade the masks for rifles, cloth materials, sewing products, pots, rifles, ammo, canned foods, flour were a common way of purchasing products, these are the times I experienced my father trading his masks for the things in which he needed for his family. My father’s masks have become higher profile arts collections in many different museums, art collectors, corporate businesses, also museums in other countries. My father and mother were born on Nunivak Island, and lived a subsistence way of life, born in sod house made from driftwood and tundra sod, they both relied on the crafts they made to provide for their family. He made his hand-crafted mask designs for the past 75 years of his life. This was an experience in which I believe was his profession, a lifelong mask
maker of Nunivak island.

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